Top US official says no country would keep envoy position vacant for 2-plus years in ‘strategically important’ India

Top US official says no country would keep envoy position vacant for 2-plus years in ‘strategically important’ India

Washington: After over two years, the US is expected to get its ambassador to “strategically important” country India as a Senate committee voted in favor of former Los Angeles Mayor and President Joe Biden’s choice for the key envoy post, Eric Garcetti for the job.

Garcetti’s nomination was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a vote of 13-8. Two Republicans – Todd Young and Bill Hagerty – joined Democrats in favour.

Garcetti’s nomination will now proceed to the Senate floor for a full vote, amid questions over his handling of sexual harassment case.

‘In the interest of India’

Talking about the Senate committee vote, state department spokesman Ned Price said, “… put simply, the United States needs a confirmed ambassador in India”.

“We did see the action on the part of the Senate today. We heartily applaud that. US needs a confirmed Ambassador in India. Our team on the ground, including Charge d’ Affaires, who have served in the place of an ambassador, have done extraordinary work,” said Price.

Also Read: It is an embarrassment not to have a US Ambassador to India, says Senator Warner

The state department spokesman further said that there is no other country around the world that would put itself in a position to have a vacancy open in a “strategically important and valuable place like India for two plus years now.”

“It would be in the interests of both of our people to have a confirmed Ambassador in place. We hope that the mayor and soon-to-be Ambassador Eric Garcetti is able to take up that post before long,” Price said.

“We certainly hope that the action that the Senate took today foretells additional action. It would be in our interest, it would be in the interest of India, and it would be in the interest of both of our people to have a confirmed ambassador in place. We hope that mayor and soon-to-be Ambassador Garcetti is able to take up that post before long,” the state department spokesman said.

Garcetti nominated for post in 2021

Biden nominated Garcetti for the post of US ambassador to India in July 2021. His name was initially cleared by the Senate in January 2022 and a final vote was scheduled to be conducted, but it did not take place.

The voting did not take place due to pending investigation into complaints of sexual harassment against his adviser – Rick Jacobs.

Garcetti’s bid was stalled as Republicans and some democrats about his handling of the sexual harassment case from his time as a mayor and not taking the required action to stop it.

Must Read: White House stands behind Eric Garcetti’s nomination, says he is qualified to serve as Ambassador to India

One of the Republican senators, Chuck Grassley was among the first to veto Garcetti’s appointment as US ambassador to India. Gradually, some Democrats also allegedly became apprehensive of approving his name.

In May, Grassley, in a report, concluded that Garcetti was likely aware of the allegations that Jacobs sexually harassed a Los Angeles police officer.

In a released, the Senator’s office said the investigation’s findings contradict what Garcetti testified at a nomination hearing before the committee.

Garcetti said he “strongly” disagreed with its findings of the report and expressed optimism about being confirmed by the full Senate.

He failed to win a confirmation from the Senate for more than 500 days.

Biden’s fixation with Eric Garcetti

Biden re-nominated Garcetti in January this year for the post of US envoy to India with confidence that he would be confirmed this time.

The White House has been persistently defending Garcetti as a “well-qualified” candidate. Earlier this year, the White House said: “Eric M. Garcetti, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of India.”

The US considers India a key strategic ally in the Indo-Pacific but the position of the US ambassador to India has been lying vacant since January 2022 after Kenneth I. Juster left.

Must Read: Joe Biden’s Eric Garcetti fixation and record absence of US ambassador to India

Washington has sent five temporary envoys to India in over two years. A permanent one is yet to be named.

The temporary US envoys to India were – Donald Heflin, Daniel Smith, Atul Keshap, Patricia Lacina, and A Elizabeth Jones.

Hand-picked by Biden, Garcetti has been waiting for final approval for about 20 months, but his controversial past has been weighing on his nomination to the post.

Who is Eric Garcetti?

Eric Michael Garcetti is a member of Democratic Party and was first elected in the 2013 election. During his seven-year stint till 2020 as the 42nd Los Angeles Mayor, he courted several controversies.

Garcetti was co-chair of Biden’s successful presidential campaign in 2020.

He was the city’s first elected Jewish mayor and second consecutive Mexican American mayor

During his tenure as LA Mayor, number of homeless in the city of 4 million almost doubled from almost 23,000 to 41,290.

A remedy measure, including a $1.2 billion project was announced by Garcetti to develop 10,000 new housing units, unfortunately for him, it got marred due to slow progress and high cost.

There have been 20 names awaiting confirmation from the Senate of which Garcetti’s case has been pending the longest.

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